I had initially been sorry that I would not be in Sri Lanka for the presentation of the budget and the debate that took place over the last few days. However, reading about the arguments advanced by the opposition, which still seems determined to oppose every action of government as though that was the sole justification for having an opposition, it seems that I missed very little. One might almost have predicted the statements the opposition would have made beforehand, though the particularly childish form their performances took on the first and last days shows they will always be capable of surprises when it comes to pathetic melodrama.

I happened, during the last couple of weeks, to be in countries that have suffered from economic downturns without having fought against terrorism and won. Indeed, where they have had to deal with terrorism, and with problems of internal security, they are expending sums that to us seem astronomic, without any very positive results. But they had also, in the last few years, spent much larger sums on programmes that they now realize need to be cut, and they have cut these ruthlessly, without prompting the hysteria in their more responsible oppositions that our opposition has displayed with regard to comparatively less harsh measures.

What then is the essence of the current budget in Sri Lanka, that the opposition seems to think so disastrous? It is fiscal responsibility, which for years they claimed was being dodged by the government. At the same time it is fiscal responsibility exercised with compassion, not the ruthless cuts with regard to employment as well as emoluments, and also programmes that benefited the public, that the UNP or UNF or whatever it called itself government of 2002 engaged in.

It is true that some benefits government would have liked to bestow on the people, in addition to the inestimable benefit of peace and security, have not been possible this year. But they will come as soon as possible, very soon we anticipate, because of the other benefits the country will derive, both from the victory over terror as well as the foundations being put in place for greater prosperity.

For that is the other aspect of the budget that seems to have passed the opposition by. The government will continue with the rapid development of infrastructure that was such an extraordinary feature of national achievement in the last five years even while we were battling against terrorism. What has been done in the East – and indeed elsewhere in the country – will be repeated in the North, and we know that our now liberated fellow citizens in that area will take full advantage of these developments, for their benefit as well as that of the country as a whole.  The resettlement process will be completed, and agriculture in those areas will achieve the successes last seen in those parts in the seventies.

We are aware that the former standard bearer of the joint opposition felt that resettlement was proceeding far too quickly, but we also know that His Excellency the President, in urging swift resettlement even against such perhaps sincere but certainly excessive security considerations, was  justified in his faith in our people. That confidence in our people and  their capacity to put the deprivation they suffered in the past behind  them, and build on the development government will continue to provide,  even in fiscally difficult times, is why we continue in government, while the death eaters of the opposition continue to fade away.

Other predictably depressing claims related to international relations, due perhaps to anger at the faith in Sri Lanka evinced by the IMF. It would be funny were it not so tragic, to trace how the government accuses  us of compromising too much, when we achieve success in accordance with  national policies, and of not compromising enough when we also achieve success in continuing with national policies that others want to undermine.

We must be grateful to the Leader of the Opposition for letting the cat out of the bag several months ago, with regard to GSP+, when he declared  that we would get this concession were his good friend at the time elected President. The people showed him what they thought of such a concession, at the price of such a fate – a fate that now at least the Leader of the Opposition shows himself glad to have escaped.

Amazingly, our mutual good friend, the EU delegate, no longer playing Santa Claus, seemed to confirm the theory of the Leader of the Opposition when he went into an elaborate defence of military persons in politics,  invoking the good name of General Eisenhower in what was arguably the most  foolish intervention in national affairs of any diplomat in 2010. After that performance, while of course, in the interests of our people as well as of those many Europeans who do not wish to play politics in Sri Lanka, we did our best through negotiations to continue with the concession, obviously we could not dance to a tune originally written by the opposition.

Finally, one can only despair of an opposition that still grudges us spending on defence. Eight years ago, the then government squandered the natural advantages of defence that a country possesses, while engaging in arms deals that even its pet newspapers found abhorrent. We had to build up again therefore to win the war against terror, and as the verdict of  the people showed, twice this year, there are no regrets about that expenditure which we must see rather as an investment.

In such a context we do not intend to squander our new found security to pursue the passive and defeatist agenda of the opposition. This government was elected by the people primarily to keep Sri Lanka safe, and that obligation it will fulfil. But it also knows that only through security will investment and prosperity come.

Already we have begun to reap benefits in the form of increase in tourist revenues, and I hope the opposition, with its deep understanding of the hospitality industry, will not stand in the way of the plans being developed in this field. The benefits of those plans, as of all the long term development plans laid out in the budget, are for our people. They  will understand what is planned and being achieved, even if such
understanding is clearly beyond an opposition that believes that  responsibility and prosperity are incompatible.

Six years ago the people showed what they thought of what can only be described as the voodoo economics of the Leader of the Opposition and his  former National List friends, whom he has rightly kept in outer darkness this time round, for the sake of economists he thinks are more enlightened. Sadly they sing to the same old tune, a tune that has never really been in harmony with the needs of the vast majority of this country. One can only hope that, in the six months that remain before the next budget, the long overdue reforms in the opposition will allow for some educational developments in its ranks. A little bit more learning might bring its purveyors of international expertise, purveyors who have not really seen what is happening now in the rest of the world, back to Sri Lankan and world realities.

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